Dictionaries and endangered languages


Linguists have seen creating dictionaries of endangered languages as a key activity in language maintenance and revival work. However, like any approach to language engineering, there are concerns to address. The first is the tension between language documentation and language maintenance2. The second is the role of literacy. A lot of effort has been put into vernacular literacy, on the assumption that it assists language maintenance, as well as language documentation. In some respects this is a dubious assumption, because writing a language does not necessarily lead to speaking it or maintaining the language. Moreover, in some cases putting effort into writing the language can detract from efforts to encourage learners to speak the language. It is certain that much more effort should be put into oral language development.

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